Monday, March 29, 2010

belgian pale ale

a rare monday night brew session, a belgian pale ale with decidedly hoppy intentions.
Half way through the boil, I'm growing concerned about my decision to use a large amount of low alpha hops, reminiscent of a past misstep. I desire all the subtleties of the noble varieties, but just looking to turn up the volume. Something has been lost in translation in the past attempts, and perhaps I should have listened to the nagging doubts in my head.

Looking at all the vegetal matter I've dumped the kettle , I fear I've brewed a chlorophyll-bomb.
oh well, worse comes to worst, I just spent a few hours making a big starter of a'chouffe yeast (WLP550).

meh, low expectations might yield a nice surprise.

Bubbling away nicely ~18hrs later, wrapping with a big blanket to help insulate the fermentor...looking to free-rise the temp up in to the mid 70s to help generate those characteristic gnome-y phenolic spiciness.

~48hrs in to ferment, free rise (fermenter wrapped in blanket) up to 78.9F, fermentation slowing considerably now. A'chouffe character starting to really show up.

Racked off yeast 02April, in to 6 gallon better bottle, in order to free up primary fermenter for doppel hopfen weisse. Saved yeast cake, yielded about 400ml of thick yeast slurry, after overnight settling in a mason jar in the fridge.
belgian pale ale

Type: All Grain

Date: 3/29/2010

Batch Size: 6.00 gal

Brewer: JC
Boil Size: 6.87 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: My Equipment
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
12 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 82.76 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM) Grain 10.34 %
1 lbs Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 6.90 %
3.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.40 %] (60 min) Hops 36.8 IBU
1.50 oz Crystal [3.00 %] (Dry Hop 10 days) Hops -
1.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.40 %] (Dry Hop 10 days) Hops -
1.00 oz Crystal [3.00 %] (20 min) Hops 5.1 IBU
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.40 %] (20 min) Hops 7.4 IBU
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.40 %] (0 min) Hops -
1.00 oz Crystal [3.00 %] (0 min) Hops -
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Primary 3.0 days) Misc
10.00 gm Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash 60.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs Belgian Ale (White Labs #WLP550) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.061 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.010 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.015 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.005 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.05 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 0.65 %
Bitterness: 49.3 IBU Calories: 43 cal/pint
Est Color: 7.1 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body Total Grain Weight: 14.50 lb
Sparge Water: 1.18 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Light Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
75 min Mash In Add 18.13 qt of water at 161.4 F 150.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 11.60 qt of water at 200.2 F 168.0 F

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I really like beer people.
I find that they (we?) are generally a more thoughtful, giving bunch of people.

Eric Surface of Mt. Tabor Brewing (or here) shot some pics of some spring blooms that he happened to have transplanted in to his wife's parent's garden in Oregon.

uh, right...soooo, that's cool.

Why send pictures of some flowers over to some dude you've never met, save for a couple emails and a shared interest in beer?

Well, they are trillium flowers, or Trillium grandiflorum for the horiculturally inclined, and that clearly has stuck in his head as something that I might be interested in.

He was right. Very right.

After a long trip on over to Europe for yet another trip away from home, I return to my land-less, concrete surrounded condo.

And, before I left, the skies here in Boston were just ekeing out some reprieve from late winter cold and rain that plagues us for far too long in to the new year. We had a few transient days in the 60s and 70s, and green life was ready to start anew.

Then the vapor sank again, down in to the 30s, juuust in time for me to wait outside at a the blustery Logan for the shuttle to then take me to the overflow parking lot that I often dread using as I drive to the airport through the Callahan tunnel.

I finally arrive home, booted up the computer, logged in to email, and I see some fantastically alive pictures of my brewery's namesake from Eric.

so, thank you, Eric. This helped alot, and I can patiently wait a few more weeks for spring ...and Trillium Brewing truly arrive.

yep, I really like beer people.

stonington sour

Just returned from a (yet another) trip to the Netherlands. When it is at all possible, and I can convince my co-workers, I do my best to get in to Amsterdam to get some world class beers at Cafe Gollem, on Ramsteeg.

On my first few trips, I was thrilled to find the Westvleteren offerings, calmly residing on their thoroughly Belgian bottle list. However, over the last few years, I feel the growing pull of the wild fermented beers, and find my eyes returning back to the most visible chalkboard in the place, the one over the door, where all of the spontaneously fermented offerings are listed. My coworkers all wait patiently, and say 'So, what do you think...what are we drinking tonight?'

I put some Orval, Rodenbach Grand Cru in front of them.
gueuze, faro...
some funky imperial stout (de struisse cuvee delphine)

I let them go through the process, uninitiated.

they wince. they make faces. they raise their eyebrows. they sniff. cautiously... then, put the glass back to the table without trying it, doubtful about the experience in front of them. They'ver heard me say some seemingly un-beery things like 'horse blanket' 'sorta like bleu cheese'

They muster courage, and give it a go. 'wow'. and they keep sipping, keep drinking, until its time to ask...'what are we drinking next?' save the receipt boys, we're going to need it.

I wake up before the sun on the morning after my return, grab my brew kettle, and start heating up the strike water for my first (prospective) sour/wild ale. Taking cues from the flavor profiles of Temptation, Mo Betta Bretta, and my own notions of what I'd like to see in an American Wild, this beer was mashed in high (157F) to ensure lots of dextrins that the sacch will pass over, for the rest of the bugs to go after later. Replaced a pound of the pilsner with carapils for more dextrin.
A little Ca+Cl- to up the Calcium in the mash to ~100ppm.
Restrained hopping with 1oz of EKG ~15IBUs.

90 minute boil.

Pitched WLP 655 (Sour Mix I) and WLP 645 (Brett c.) directly (no starters) in to primary.

Now, I'm drinking an Oro de Calabaza (batch292) and making a 500ml 1.040 starter to add the dregs to kick some Dexter, MI bugs to the mix after a couple days. 1oz of medium toast French oak and 500ml of Chardonnay from Stonington, CT will complete the picture in the extended secondary (airlocked glass is intended).
Will keep the fermentation in the mid 60s to encourage a slower initial ferment, and then let the heat of the summer take the lactic acid levels up to where I hope they'll go.
stonington sour american wild ale

Type: All Grain

Date: 3/28/2010

Batch Size: 6.00 gal

Brewer: JC
Boil Size: 7.23 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: My Equipment
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
7 lbs 12.0 oz Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 49.21 %
6 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 38.10 %
1 lbs Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 6.35 %
1 lbs Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM) Grain 6.35 %
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (90 min) Hops 14.6 IBU
1.00 oz French Oak Cubes, Medium Toast Misc
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient Misc
8.00 gm Calcium Chloride Misc
500.00 ml Chardonnay (Saltwater Farms Vineyard, 2006)Misc
1 Pkgs Brettanomyces claussenii (White Labs #WLP645) Yeast-Ale
1 Pkgs Sour Mix 1 (White Labs #WLP655) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.067 SG

Measured Original Gravity: SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.019 SG Measured Final Gravity: SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.26 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: %
Bitterness: 14.6 IBU Calories: 296 cal/pint
Est Color: 4.6 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Full Body Total Grain Weight: 15.75 lb
Sparge Water: 2.23 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Full Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
45 min Mash In Add 19.69 qt of water at 169.4 F 157.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 7.88 qt of water at 199.5 F 168.0 F

4/9/10- 1oz medium toast French oak cubes put on 300ml Chardonnay, capped with saran wrap under cap to reduce oxidation.

4/24/10- 1oz medium toast French oak drained of wine + ~500ml of cultured up dregs of oro de calabaza, consecration and fantome printemps , added to stonington sour.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saltwater Farm, spring tasting

Esther and I made the trip down to Stonington, CT yet again yesterday afternoon as we were attending a private tasting at Saltwater Farm Vineyard. Every time we return, we reaffirm the reason why we married there; it is a place of simple beauty, filled with the quiet wonders of the natural world and the warm hearts that are attracted to the place. It is a place we will be able to visit often and experience the freedom of leaving behind much of the distracting noise that can come with business of life, slow down the pace a bit, and focus on our own quiet, natural wonders.

Since the fall harvest at the vineyard, I have made continual, albeit slow progress. Working to assemble some film that I shot of that day, teaching myself the software, the process, all the while hoping that that (today's interpretation of an) austere timelessness of the harvest would translate to the finished piece. Throughout the process, it let me return to that place, over and over again, those moments which inspire me...which inspires us, not only to create something for today, but with a hopeful eye toward what will be built in the future together.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

IBA: tasting

If you have been following along, you'll noticed a trend in the last few posts, in that they are all tasting notes.
A few reasons:
  • I found that my tasting notes just haven't kept pace,
  • There's a big backlog of beers to write tasting notes about,
  • I'm looking to tidy up the place, and with that, alot of beers that are just sitting taking up valuable space around are now targeted for 'removal'
  • I haven't brewed since bumble, b2
So, during a good spring cleaning today, I came across a few 1 liter flip tops. Huh, I thought all of these IBA bottles were gone. So, might as well toss it in the fridge while I catch up on my laundry so it can be chilled down for a later tasting.

Now, I have had some problems with the flip tops holding CO2 over extended periods of time, so I always fear the anemic, the pathetic little 'pffft' after flipping off the rubber gasket. No such problem with this bottle, as a loud and sudden pop revealed what would be excellent (yet excessive) carbonation.

I've now taken to only pouring down the middle of the glass, as the initial pour will immediately reveal the carbonation level. If properly, and not overly carbonated, the beer will form a proper head, and not take too much time to do so. This results in the best head formation, and tends to de-gas an overcarbonated beer, such as in this case. With an overcarbonated beer, you just gotta wait it out. None of that disgusting slide of the finger across the nose to pick up head killing oils for me.

God, that's gross.

I try to taste a beer for what it is first, and not what it was intended to be. I leave that for last. I try to go in with no expectation, and build an impression as I go. So, I already mentioned the overcarbonation, a perennial problem I've had since my unevenly carbonated first IPA. That was a result of inadequately dispersed priming sugar. I have since overcompensated, not trusting myself, despite careful and thorough blending with the racking cane in the bottling bucket.

This beer pours a pale chocolate brown...well, its dark brown, darn close to black in a full glass. Ruddy reddish brown when held up to the light. And earlier problems it had with clarity have dissipated with time on the shelf. It has dropped brilliantly clear now with time.
Yet another beautiful head forms on the lengthy pour, and the aroma provided is malty, roasty and biscuity. If nothing else, I'd say the heads on my beers are as good as any beer I've ever poured.
The beer tastes like a hybrid between an american brown ale and a dry stout. Roasty flavor, a touch of caramel, but very little sweetness on the finish. A drying roast character is pervasive the whole way through and the faded, muted bitterness is now in pretty great balance with that. Any extract twang in its youth has now smoothed over and is undetectable. Clean fermentation, hardly any perceptible character, right in line with the California ale yeast. No fresh hop aroma or flavor anywhere to be found.

Funny, as it is now, a dry roasty American brown with subtle hopping, its tanding tall abve where it was in its youth: not quite enough fresh American hop character struggling from behind too much roast, and roughness from the extract twang.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Belgian IPA: tasting

Its already been over a year since I've brewed this beer?

Well, while it was very young, it was mostly a rough and muddled impression of an over hopped tripel with an incredibly low FG (1.002), which made this beer just under 12%abv. The smattering of noble and american hops were of rather low quality, as I am now aware of what high quality stuff is available to the homebrewer. Despite their less than optimal quality, nothing would have rescued the recipe for what was intended, a bigger, nobler cousin of Houblon Chouffe. Silly chouffe had already pretty much nailed the style. In the earlier tastings, very little finishing hop character made its way from behind the big phenolics, alcohol and rather rough edges. I contend that even double the hopping levels of these noble hops wouldn't have come forward in the youngest months of such a huge beer, like I had hoped...its just not within their abilities, their strength is in their subtleties. The recipe would need to scaled way back, and hopping schedule revamped. And I'd go back to the a'chouffe yeast, like I had originally intended, I think.

Well, despite its roughness, its low FG and full flavor always seemed to warrant another mouthful. So the bottles went fast.

And after just a glass, its very easy to pour another, and...another and...whoops, you and your friends wake up to a morning of regret. So, I now only have a few bottles left, and the bottle I opened tonight has been in the fridge for at least a few months of cold conditioning.

Its delicious.

The beer seemingly has now gone through the transmogrifying cardboard box, and now could be a described as a Noel special release qualityBelgian tripel, with wonderfully complex Belgian fruity nose, a clean snappy and dry pilsner body, and a softened bitterness. On the pour, a pillowy head forms and stick around through the quaff as a reduced but stable little pillow of protein at the surface.
A glowing gold, slightly hazy appearance and just high enough carbonation is best enjoyed in this Duvel goblet, with its 'D' laser etch continuing to feed the aromatics for each sip.
Warming alcohols fills the back of the throat and sinuses on the swallow, carrying the phenolics through again, and easily warms up a snowy, blustery Boston winter night. Would pair wonderfully with a steaming bowl of root vegetable/braised beef shank soup, washing back the richness, and scrubbing the palate clean again for a great back and forth, which is better, which do I want more type of battle.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Belgian Chocolate Stout: tasting

In and effort to diminish the vast quantity of bottles in my aging library, I pulled one of my first brewed beers from the wine rack (yes, this beer was lying on its side for the better part of 2.5 years...more on that later).

The Belgian chocolate stout was brewed before I was taking proper notes, so I'll recall the recipe and particulars from memory, which actually give me a descent understanding of how the beer has revealed itself to me today.

Most importantly, this is when I was buying recipe kits from Midwest. I'll guess that the base kit was either a dry stout or the oatmeal stout kit, knowing my predilections at the time. At this point, I likely boosted the recipe with another 1lb of chocolate malt, as I recall being underwhelmed by the roast character of earlier kit, to which I logically attributed to the specialty grains components of the recipe.

So, just add more, right?
Yes and no.

Certainly adding more chocolate malt would increase the flavor threshold, but, just like many other flavors, the perception of 'chocolatey-ness' certainly relies on more than just this simple addition (though my head was certainly heading in the right direction). I now appreciate that the yeast choice, its health, pitching rate, SG/FG, fermentation temperature, brewing liquor, other components of the grist will also have harmoniously holistic impact on all flavor perceptions, including 'chocolateyness'.

But, back to the other particulars about this batch...I know I re-used yeast from the tripel I had made earlier, which was actually yeast cultured up from a few bottles of Duvel. Not the most expressive yeast I've found, so not one that screams estery, phenolic Belgian, but...again, my head was in the right place. Plus, I really liked the idea of re-using my yeast that I had lovingly nudged out of its trans-Atlantic, very far from its European home hibernation.

Lastly, I used some cacao shells to 'dry hop' the beer after primary. I had snagged a bunch of the bags that Taza was handing out as homebrewing fodder at one of the Beer Advocate fests I attended (maybe it was the first ACBF?). This artisanal chocolate maker in nearby Somerville certainly have their heads in the right place, as it pertains to their product, so I hoped to infuse some of the amazing aromatics from these shells in to my beer.

I had poured a bottle of my corked/caged tripel this past summer, which went nearly completely flat. That singular experience told me that I will not cork and cage bottles that I intend to keep for any real amount of time. Caps are clearly a superior, yet homelier solution that I'll opt for in the future.

This beer, after resting upright in the fridge for a few weeks, exhaled out a satisfying burping pop as the cork was freed. Hmm, only an n of 2, with two different beers, stored in different rooms, but the beer lying on its side kept what I assume was most of its carbonation, and the bottle stored upright was nearly devoid of the stuff.

Poured it down the middle of a small Portsmouth Brewing goblet, and a satisfyingly creamy head formed. Perhaps it was a Midwest oatmeal stout kit? I can see that the beer had conditioned itself clear with time. Nose of ...chocolate, nice proper artisan chocolate, though I have to assume that these aromatics have seen a better day, given its age. It would have been useful to try some non dry cacao shelled beer in a side by side to appreciate the impact, but those experiments will need to be realized at a later time. The beer is dark, though not nearly as dark as some of my other stouts and porters, which lean toward excess in the roasted grain territory. Still, it sits in that glass, fat and dark.
First sip gives a thin but velvety feel, so I'll put a stake in the ground, this was the oatmeal stout kit paired with full attenuation of the LME by the Duvel yeast. No distinguishable yeast character...nothing that says 'hey, this is a Anglo-Americanized beer, fermented with a Belgian yeast.'

Just a very clean ferment, and obviously full attenuation. A very sessionable beer, subtle roasted grain acidity. I could have multiples. Its very nice and satisfying as it warms as well. The chocolate tendencies grow with the warmth. Satisfying drying finish from the kilned malt, cocoa on the breath. Ah, too bad there's only a handful of these left.

Lastly, on to the is it bad to lay down the beer for aging question.

My response today is...maybe. The sediment that developed along the side of the bottle is garishingly disturbing at first, but it truly didn't make its way in to the pour, actually. So, to me, that's only a minor fault, as I'm not serving the bottle to someone. Sets up an interesting sediment erosion-lightning streak appearance, though.
After a few weeks in the fridge, any 'moveable' sediment made its way down the bottom of the bottle, and stayed put during the pour. This beer was very clear, all the way down to the last sip, and no cloudiness at the dark margins when held up to light.
So, there was plenty of CO2 in this beer. Maybe the beer contact with the cork is what kept this beer carbonated, but until I pop a good number of a couple more from the wine rack and the few remaining bottles that from that tripel batch that have spent their lives standing upright, I'll not make a verdict, yet. One thing is for sure, this beer has aged very gracefully, and I am more than happy to turn a blind eye to the sediment. And who doesn't love the sound of a popping cork?

Bumble, Batch 2: tasting

Poured the 2nd bottle of bumble from batch 2 tonight.

The first 750ml bottle was shared with my great high school friend, Josh Demasi, a few weeks back; the ubiquitous Facebook finally paid dividends with an actual reunion with an old friend.

I recently had an Allagash White at a beer dinner at VeeVee, and was hoping for some parallels. At that time of the Josh-JC reunion, I think the bottle was just short of 2 weeks in to conditioning. I poured aggresively, pushed out a lovely even haziness, golden and creamy white head. But, when brought to the nose, it had an overwhelming, very powerful aromatic that he described as lemony, where for me, it was hitting the olfactory senses hard with a rose petal perfumey-ness.

No sir, I didn't like it.

Mouthfeel was a touch thin. Also had a sort of mild astringency and a whiff of higher alcohols on the breath after the exhale on the swallow. I wanted the fullness of the Allagash, I wanted the even, finishing crispness, but all I could focus on was that weird aromatic. Was it the coriander? no, I used the same amount as previously, and this coriander should only be milder, as its been sitting there in storage for a while. The tangerine? nope, it just didn't remind me of the fresh aromatics that were being emitted as I zested. The wicked expensive chamomile? Again, no...My mind was swimming, and I had to return to being present with my guest.

I bowed my head in a bit of shame, as Josh and I were reunited under the pretenses of a proper beer tasting + tasty fresh out of the oven flatbreads evening. I hoped for a seamless experience. While pot&kettle b2, the SPAb3, Leon, and RIS2008 made very strong showings, bumbleb2 pulled up lame, for sure. Oh well, work in progress, I hoped.

Josh finished the glass with a redemptive, "Well, it would probably be good in the summer time...right?"

hmmmm. maybe he was right, maybe a little time would fix what ailed this witbier.

Fast forward to tonight, about a month + in the bottles now. The pour revealed what again looked to be a proper witbier, if not 'white' enough...probably too golden.

That flowery aromatic was only maybe minorly (possibly) present, or existed only as a haunting fearful memory of bottle 1. Things seemed to have mellowed and smoothed over, very similar to what I remember the witbier of batch 1 eventually provided. I searched for finishing aroma hops, none to be distinctly found, though the just-enough bitterness was spot on. rolling spices and not-quite-full-enough mouthfeel. Perhaps the carbonation was set too high?
Still, the Allagash is still a towering standard to which I haven't even remotely (yet) approached. I think I'll simplify, add a much larger percentage of wheat.

And de-bumble it.

Yep, drop the honey.

The honey must be thinning the body substantially. So, that, coupled with the too high carbonation, is sort of leaving it in no-man's-land. So it will be not a honey witbier for the time being. So I can't, with a straight face, continue to give it bee inspired name. Right? But that's OK, I've actually tired of the moniker almost immediately after I coined it.

She sure is photogenic, though.
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